Eight Questions Chapter Eight – Part 1 The Art of Delegation

J. Keith Hughey


Volume XXI, Number 11 (Issue 1015) March 13, 2023

Eight Questions Chapter Eight – Part 1 The Art of Delegation

On a scale of one to five with five being “consistently exceeds expectations,” how good are you at your job? How about delegation? If you are unsure of your answer to that second question, a clue can be found in the nature of the excuses you use to not delegate – that, and the frequency in which you resort to those rationalizations. Take the most common reason used to not delegate as an example: “I can do this faster than I can teach you.” Such thinking appears to have merit on the surface. After all, it does take considerably more time to train someone how to do a task you have performed countless times and know by heart. But there are more than a few reasons why such thinking does not hold water.

For instance, at some point in the past, you were new to the very tasks you now have mastered. Yet someone entrusted you with those jobs even though they were thinking, “I can do this faster…” Of course, they were right – they could do most if not all of what you do faster – in the beginning. It took you longer that first time than it would have taken them. For that matter, it probably took you longer the second, third, and fourth time you traveled that (those) path(s). Still, others made the decision and took the chance to invest in you and your development.

Now it is your turn to pass it on by investing in others.

Beyond that, and what may be of equal value, by delegating work to others you move the work from your desk to theirs, thereby freeing chunks of your day to focus on the things that are a higher and better use of your time. In turn, that may enable your manager to shift some of their work to you. In both instances, it moves the work to a lower cost point once the person being delegated to gains some proficiency. In addition, there is the very distinct possibility the newbie, if reasonably untethered to the current approach, may find an even better way to achieve the desired end. Which brings us to a model for delegating.

Starting at the top of the diagram and moving clockwise…

  1. Show them what the desired result looks like and establish a goal (deadline). Recognizing they have no experience at the task while you have mastered it, the more say you can allow the student in setting the target date, the better. But it is also helpful if both of you are cognizant of the planning fallacy – the tendency to underestimate the time required to see a task through to completion. Murphy’s Law may account for some of the delay; multi-tasking another .
  2. Detail the first few steps. This is key in getting the person you are investing in moving quickly along the right path. Without an element of specificity they are apt to hesitate for fear they will waste time traveling the wrong path. You must also take care not to be overly prescriptive because you want to…
  3. Permit them the freedom to experiment (try some things).
  4. Schedule a check-in. The norm is to tell the student your door is open so they should reach out any time they are feeling stuck or have questions. But odds are their ego and desire to impress you will get in the way of those knocks on your door and the questions you are anticipating.
  5. Permit them to do some more work.
  6. Hold another check-in. As part of each check-in, take time to provide feedback (evaluate their progress and process – without discouraging their efforts).
  7. Repeat Steps Five and Six as needed. `
  8. Once the task is complete, evaluate the result as well as their efforts.

Remember, by allowing the delegatee the freedom to be a bit inventive in tackling the task, you might be pleasantly surprised by their innovative approach.

Soli Deo Gloria

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8

J. Keith Hughey

Mobile: (210)260-0955
E-mail: keith@jkeithhughey.com
Web site: www.jkeithhughey.com

Transforming Potential into Unmatched Performance
Copyright 2023 by J. Keith Hughey. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction and redistribution of this essay as provided under the copyright laws of the United States of America. The entire early library of Monday Morning Musings issues may be found at www.jkeithhughey.com. Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Stay up to date.

Sign up our newsletter for latest article and news.

Why? Why? Why?

Volume XXII, Number 27 (Issue 1083) July 1, 2024 Why? Why? Why? If you have spent time in the company of a small child, you

Read More »